A developer overseeing what some critics describe as a rather disruptive construction project has one state lawmaker living nearby quite peeved.
Local motorists probably aren’t thrilled over the fact some 19 parking spaces have been removed from West 237th Street and Blackstone Avenue. Yet, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz says it’s just the latest example of rapacious developers getting just about everything they want from a city agency that all too willingly green-lights their every whim — despite vehement public opposition.
“Full disclosure — I live across the street from there, and I don’t need the parking space personally, because I have a garage spot,” Dinowitz told The Riverdale Press. “But of course, I’m concerned about all my neighbors in my building and on my block who don’t have garage spots.”
Case in point — since last November, the city’s transportation department has approved a request from Cipco Developers of NY Inc., to remove every parking space adjacent to their corner lot at West 237th and Blackstone, according to Dinowitz’s office. But massive concrete barriers — demarcating a pedestrian walkway — already filled those parking spaces, as of March 15, prompting some residents to wonder why Cipco needed to block off the sidewalk at all.
Moreover, DOT has issued numerous permits to Cipco along Blackstone and West 237th, adjacent to the lot, valid through at least May, the Assemblyman said. Historically, DOT has readily granted extensions to street permits on behalf of developers. Permits at the Blackstone project include permission to plunk jersey barriers and fences on both Blackstone and West 237th, a construction office trailer on West 237th, and allow occupying the sidewalk for “unspecified stipulated conditions.”
But otherwise, DOT’s been mum on the topic of why granting Cipco’s requests, blocking the sidewalk, and obliterating parking spaces is necessary — or justified. The city department didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Over the last several years, the northwest Bronx has seen what Dinowitz’s office described as a tremendous rise in the number of new developments proposed and constructed. Typically, these applications are first processed by the city’s buildings department, and, in certain cases, the city planning department. Permits are then requested from the transportation department if the property developers fancy using precious sidewalk or street space for their construction equipment.
But rarely, if ever, Dinowitz said, are these permits denied by DOT.
Exacerbating the proverbial pain in the neck for pedestrians, drivers and neighbors is the fact deciphering just what’s going on in their own backyard can feel nigh impossible. That’s because real estate developers seem to make a habit of masking their identities through a variety of limited liability corporations. Which makes it only more maddening for neighbors looking to address concerns the moment they sprout up — like sudden excessive parking depletions, or slumber-shattering construction noise at ungodly hours.
In fact, local residents often are told to file complaints with the city’s reputedly less-than-perfect 311 system, Dinowitz added. Yet, those complaints may end up forwarded to the very city agencies that rubber-stamped the permits in the first place, often resulting in an aggravating circular process that fails to really fix anything.
“They put up the walkway,” said Michael Litsios, neighborhood resident of more than 40 years, who wasn’t overly irked by the bulky sidewalk barricades. “They put these things up for a reason. You’ve got to be very careful where you walk.”
Yet, he believes in the long run, the project will add more housing stock, which probably is “all for the better.” Still, “I feel sorry for the people who have to drive,” and seek out parking further away.
But perhaps not surprisingly, Asher Neuman — owner and president of Cipco Developers, according to a social media profile — tells a somewhat different tale.
According to a March 20 letter to neighbors from Neuman, obtained from Dinowitz’s office by The Riverdale Press, “All fence placement” at the site “is being done according to the DOT approval.”
“For the excavation, foundation and superstructure phase, it’s impossible to do the work without having the parking closed,” Neuman wrote. “We do understand that this might cause an inconvenience to the neighborhood. Therefore, we are trying to have this phase done ASAP.”
“With the cooperation of neighbors, we will be able to do so,” Neuman added. “After the superstructure is done, we will try to move in the fence as much as possible.”
Neuman didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. He’s erecting a new eight-story, 68-unit residential apartment building, according to permits filed with the city’s buildings department.
Yet, Dinowitz has worked since at least last November when he wrote to DOT borough commissioner Nivardo Lopez asking he not capitulate to Cipco’s request to block parking spaces for the Blackstone project.
“Parking is already very difficult in this area,” Dinowitz wrote. “Further restrictions would cause undue burdens on local residents.”
Oftentimes, contractors request more parking than they actually need, resulting in utterly inefficient use of public curb space, the Assemblyman added.
Unfortunately for Dinowitz — and perhaps more so for his parking-pressed neighbors — it doesn’t look too promising Lopez is hustling to address their complaints.
“I’ve gotten no indication from either” Cipco or DOT “that the loss of parking will be mitigated to even the slightest degree,” Dinowitz said. “It just kind of confirms what most people believe — that developers kind of always get their way.
“We’ve had a lot of development in Riverdale in recent years. It’s providing housing for additional people. But it certainly has not enhanced the quality of life in the community.”